Friday’s Forgotten Books: Between the Angels and the Apes

Not so much “forgotten” as — what? Aborted? Headed off at the pass? The initial news was wonderful: Alan Moore writing an opera on John Dee with Gorillaz! What’s not to love? It sounded like a match made in an alchemical lab somewhere with the potential of turning into gold. There was just one problem: Gorillaz couldn’t be bothered to come up with some artwork for Moore’s magazine Dodgem Logic despite having the issue held for them several times.

Really? Is it so hard to give a little quid pro quo? Apparently, so that was that.

Well, if you’re Alan Moore, you just get on with the billion other projects you have going and publish what you have in Strange Attractor, and if you’re Damon Albarn, you make your own opera on Dee anyway.

The lovely thing about Between the Angels and the Apes is how the notes reveal (once again) Moore’s structural approach to composition. Consider the opening section of the outline:

If we’re to create an approximately ninety-minute piece on the subject of Greatest Dead Englishman John Dee, then a solid and conventional place to start structurally would be a classic three-act construction with sections of a half-hour each. This also seems to fit nicely with the triangular Greek delta symbol (which is how Dee identifies himself in the facsimile notes presented in A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Yeers between Dr John Dee and Some Spirits [Meric Casaubon, 1659] and is also the elemental symbol for fire, which is in turn the element that represents the highest spiritual component of the magician or, indeed, the ordinary human being).

Moore further breaks down each section into subsections with flashbacks and the opening and closing scene of the dying Dee in Mortlake with his daughter. It almost seems as if Moore comes up with the idea of breaking the fourth wall as he writes, suggesting that the magician can sense the audience as “spirits of futurity” watching him from the time to come. His take on Queen Elizabeth is that she’s a kind of Faerie Queen and he suspects “that Dee’s devotion to Elizabeth was at least partly erotically inspired” so imagines her  as more “otherworldly and erotic” than traditionally envisioned. It’s a fascinating look at a show that will doubtless never be. Yes, it includes some of the text as well as the notes for the piece, although it remains unfinished.

You can buy this issue of the journal, which also includes Moore Bumper Book of Magic collaborator Steve Moore, no relation, but subject of his performance piece, Unearthing.

Find this week’s round up of Forgotten Books over at Sweet Freedom, next week back at Patti’s.

Last week’s FFB included Todd’s write up of our comic Jane Quiet for which he’s given me and Elena the best pull quote ever:

Laity might be the literary child of Angela Carter and Peter Cook and Italo Calvino, and Steier the artistic child of Trina Robbins and Gahan Wilson and Jules Feiffer, and not a little dash of Joan Aiken.

Yes, I plan to employ that one.